Do you ever lie to your spouse?

When it comes to honesty, most people believe that there is a difference between true deception and a little white lie. However, as a sex therapist, I have found that little white lies (even when they are well-intentioned) can do just as much as damage to a couple’s sex life as not-so-white lies.

How can this be? Isn’t it kinder (and smarter) to tell your wife that you haven’t noticed her recent weight gain? Isn’t it nicer to pretend like you love the way she performs in the bedroom (even if you secretly wish she would do something different)?

Not really. Why? Because even though you think your partner has no idea what is going on, it is likely that she can sense your true feelings. Even if she can’t, you can—and that means you are dealing with feelings of dissatisfaction and disconnection. Over time, these feelings will only grow and fester, which could leave you vulnerable to temptation and even infidelity down the road. If you have needs that aren’t being met, hiding those feelings isn’t actually the wise thing to do: You must take steps to end that dissatisfaction if you want to safeguard your bond.

So what’s the answer? If your wife asks your opinion on a dress you hate, are you supposed to say, “Honey, I hate that dress”? Well, maybe— if your wife is up for that kind of directness. But, it may be better to couch your feelings within a compliment, such as “You look beautiful as always…But why don’t you wear that little sexy black dress? You drive me crazy in that thing.”

Or what if she asks if you notice her recent weight gain? It would probably be very unhelpful to bluntly say, “Yes, you really have gained a few.” Instead, why not try something like, “You haven’t been as active lately. I notice you never make it to your yoga class anymore…Why don’t you get back into it this week and I will be sure to step it up around the house while you’re gone?” And then follow through on your word so she has time to practice self-care and stay in shape.

As for dissatisfaction in the bedroom, it is a good idea to always pose your needs in a positive rather than a negative way. For instance, instead of saying, “We don’t ever have sex!” say, “I want to have sex.” Focus on what you want, not on what you don’t want. The same is true if you need something different from your partner. Instead of saying “I hate it when you don’t look at me during sex” say “I would love it if we could look deeply at each other and kiss during lovemaking.”

Little white lies might come from a place of goodwill, but ultimately, nothing is more important than being honest with your spouse…even about (or especially about) the difficult and awkward topics. Ban little white lies in your house (even among your children if possible) and encourage your family to be always be frank and open. It doesn’t mean that they cannot always be tactful and kind, but honesty is always more important than hiding your own true feelings.

Laura Berman, PhD, is a world renowned sex and relationship educator and therapist; popular TV, radio and Internet host; New York Times best-selling author; and assistant clinical professor of ob-gyn and psychiatry at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago. Dr. Berman is a New York Times best-selling author of many books on sexual health and pleasure, a weekly columnist for the Chicago Sun Times, and host of the radio program "Uncovered with Dr. Laura Berman."